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TALLAHASSEE, FL -Lawrence Harvey (Larry) Fuchs, 71, passed away on November 22, 2013 from cardiopulmonary failure. A devoted father, grandfather, and cherished husband of Betsy, his best friend and advisor, Larry dedicated his life to making a difference. His lifetime commitment to public service earned him an impeccable reputation as an ethical and visionary leader. It was a personal drive that reaped Larry much recognition as well as the challenges that often confront a "change agent."
Larry achieved the pinnacle of a distinguished, 31-year career in public service as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR), from where he retired in 2000. During his tenure, the DOR was widely praised as one of the best-run agencies in Florida state government, earning Larry recognition as Public Official of the Year from Governing Magazine in 1994.
Outside of work, Larry also had many accomplishments and interests. He was an award winning photographer, skilled mariner and avid golfer. Larry served twice as Commodore of the Apalachee Bay Yacht Club and played golf with many friends at Killearn Country Club and other groups throughout the area. He and wife Betsy enjoyed many years of long-distance cruising by both boat and motor home. Larry's photography hobby turned into a part-time profession with gallery displays and the winning of local, regional and national awards. His appreciation for the arts, along with his natural leadership abilities, led Larry to serve as President of the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts for 2012 and 2013.
Born in New York, Larry graduated from the Peddie School before heading south to attend Florida Southern College. There he earned a B.A. and later a Master's Degree from Rollins College. Florida Southern also awarded him with an honorary PhD when he gave a spring commencement speech.
Larry strove his entire life to "make a difference." While in school he helped form a volunteer rescue team in Central Florida. In the summer he was one of the most active members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary on Long Island Sound. His first full-time employment was as a captain for the North Hempstead New York Harbor Patrol. He continued his life on the water after college graduation as an officer in the U. S. Coast Guard. He served as the navigator of a 165' search and rescue cutter in the Caribbean and then volunteered for duty on a patrol boat in Vietnam. Service there earned him a Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V". He eventually left the military as a Lieutenant Commander.
While based in Puerto Rico, Larry met his first wife, Maud Stewart of Hartlepool, England. She was welcomed as a member of his family while he was in Vietnam. They were married and settled in Florida soon after his return.
Starting an advertising, public relations and commercial photography agency in Lakeland, Larry also became the first person to head the newly formed Polk County Sheriff's Department Auxiliary. He later sold the agency and joined the Sheriff's Office as community and public relations officer. Larry realized that he had an affinity for criminal investigation and began a specialization in economic crime. After six years with Polk County, he joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. His assignments included being sent to assist former Dade State Attorney Janet Reno for 18 months; supervising the West Palm Beach, Sebring and Ft. Myers offices of FDLE; spending a year "on loan" to the anti-trust section of the Attorney General's office in Tallahassee; and helping conduct a special investigation into corruption allegations at the Florida Highway Patrol.
In 1983 Larry became the Director of Financial Investigations for the Florida Comptroller. Two years later he was promoted to Deputy Comptroller, responsible for the regulation of Florida chartered financial institutions, stock brokers, and investment offerings, as well as financial investigations. While with the Comptroller, he was asked by the Governor and Cabinet to temporarily manage the Department of Revenue. Larry formed a team of specialists who delivered a comprehensive management review to the permanent Director when he took over three months later.
In 1992 another vote of the Cabinet made Larry the Executive Director of Revenue. He was particularly proud of the achievements of the entire agency during his tenure. Emulating the best private corporations by "operating like a business," DOR was the first to win the state equivalent of the Malcolm Baldridge award for organizational excellence, and national recognition from both USA TODAY and the LBJ School at The University of Texas.
Larry was different things to different people. Although he appeared to some who worked with him as an aloof and tough executive, those who knew Larry best regarded him as fair, caring, friendly, and possessed of an often-exhibited dry sense of humor. Most politicians who worked with Larry described him as having "unwavering integrity" and "absolute credibility."
During a lifetime of exemplary achievement, Larry often quipped that he became a kinder, more approachable individual only after he met and married his wife of thirty years, Betsy, whom he credited with "turning me into a human being." He often laughed heartily when their friends quickly agreed. The love Larry and Betsy shared endured some hardships but many, many good times. Sailing the Gulf and the Virgin Islands, traveling in their motor home from one end of the country to the other, and enjoying the company of friends and relatives, they were always a couple.
When working and on many other occasions, Larry told his closest friends and business associates that he thought his reputation for integrity, credibility and commitment was reflected in his favorite quotations. From George Bernard Shaw a paraphrased: "Some men see things as they are and say, why? I see things that never were and say, why not?" From the often half-quoted Carl Schurz: "Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right, when wrong to be put right." Crediting, with reservations, Eldridge Cleaver: "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Finally from John Kennedy: "Every man can make a difference, and every man should try."
In addition to his wife, Betsy, Larry is survived by his son Jon Fuchs, stepson Mark Stevens, daughter-in-law Joann, granddaughter Kelsey, all of Tallahassee, brother and sister-in-law, Dennis and Judy Fuchs of Salt Lake City Utah, and former spouse Maud Craft of Whitefish, Montana. In lieu of a memorial service, donations to the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts and or Big Bend Hospice will be appreciated.
Published in Ledger from Nov. 27 to Nov. 28, 2013
Arrangements under the direction of:
Culley's MeadowWood Funeral Home
1737 Riggins Road | Tallahassee, FL 32308 | (850) 877-8191